Watercolor/Oil: Colour Lesson: Create a warm glow: Red Parrot Tulip: – Part II
Creating a Warm Glow: Red Parrot Tulip
I had so much fun creating this Red Parrot Tulip and while developing these glowing red washes, it occurred to me that I should share this information with you all. Red is a notoriously difficult color to portray – unless you know what I am about to tell you.
This is not a step by step guide of how to paint this subject. What I want to highlight are a number of points relating to painting a glorious glowing reds using this study as an example.
For those who missed it - here is the link to Part I:
This Parrot Tulip study will be an ongoing tutorial where I will teach you many of the invaluable lessons that will help you create form with red – no matter which medium you choose.
Lets take a look at the second step in my Parrot Tulip study
Art: 2-1 Parrot Tulip in Watercolor - Close up
© Susan Harrison-Tustain
As discussed previously you can see how the inner sanctum of the parrot is in shadow. To create this shadow we need to use some blue in our shadow mix.
But blue tends to dull colors. We want this inner area to glow with color – but the color has to be a shadowed color. So how do we achieve a glowing shadow color? You will remember in my previous lesson (you can find this in the newsletter archives on my website) on Glowing Reds we talked about my Aureolin Yellow Modern underwash and how that makes colors glow.
When we want a shadowed area to glow, we need to over-compensate for the ‘dulling down’ effect of our blue in our subsequent shadow washes. So the yellow underwash needs to be stronger and more glowing to allow this glow to penetrate the shadow washes.
Judging the strength of Yellow underwash in a shadowed area.
Art: 2-2 Parrot Tulip in Watercolor - Close up
© Susan Harrison-Tustain
This is as dark as you can go with this yellow underwash. Naturally you can only create the depth of yellow that you can see in your tube of yellow paint. Take the lid off your tube of yellow. The color you see is as dark as you can ever go with laying in washes of that color.
Art 2-3: Aureolin Yellow
You will be surprised to see how strong we need to make the yellow underwash in these shadow areas. Take a look at [Art2-3]. If you are uncertain and a little tentative – have a practice run on a spare piece of watercolor paper. This will give you the courage to create a saturated yellow underwash (for dark shadowed areas only). It is an invaluable lesson and will stand you in good stead for future studies.
Two things to remember:
Build your yellow underwash up slowly using fine washes and my Priming Method.
Naturally you will need to allow each layer to become bone dry prior to laying in the subsequent Priming wash sets. My Priming Method will allow each layer of pigment to become absorbed within the paper layers. This means there is no significant amount of paint sitting on the surface. There are numerous benefits when using this method but the main one for this study is that once the pigment is absorbed into the inner layers, you can safely add subsequent washes over top without lifting color from pervious washes. This will give you a rich glowing color that is set within the paper. It will be clear, fresh and transparent. But it is important that you follow my Priming Method otherwise you will not be able to achieve a clean transparent underwash that will not shift with subsequent washes.
What happens if you lay in a wash without using my Priming Method? The pigment will sit on the surface of the paper. Each subsequent wash will lift that pigment and of course the pigment will mix with that subsequent wash.
- The color will not be fresh
- The color will mix and often result in a sullied hue and often have that ‘muddy’ appearance
- Your wash will loose it’s transparency
- Color from previous washes lift and could result in patchiness or a ‘scartchy’ looking
- The painted area will lift during subsequent washes.
The benefits of my Priming Method:
- Smooth, even color
- Softly blended color and/or transitions
- Transparent glowing color
- Numerous clean fresh subsequent washes possible
- My Priming Method will give you time to maneuver the paint before it becomes too dry to work with.
So we now have a rich saturated yellow underwash that is absorbed into our paper. We can now safely add our Scarlet Red washes using my Priming Method. Try adding two or three sets of Priming washes of Scarlet Red. You will soon learn to discern the strength of red you require. Too heavy in pigment will give you a milky opaque look to your wet wash. You will now see at this stage your red will glow with warmth. The yellow underwash will influence your red dramatically. You will feel as if it is too strong. But wait and see what happens when you add a shadow wash that has blue in it.
One or two washes of Alizarin Crimson Or Permanent Carmine will add to the depth and strength of your red in the shadow areas.
Alizarin Crimson and Permanent Carmine
I always create my shadow colors by mixing a little of the ‘local color’ with a little of the complimentary color.
What is Local Color?
Local color is the color of the object before light or shade has affected it. For instance, a red tomato has a ‘local’ color of red. A green leaf has a local color of green.
Some form of Blue is required for a natural shadow color
Invariably a natural shadow color has some form of blue in the mix to give the illusion of a shadow – as well as some of the local color.
I prefer Phthalo Blue
So we understand our shadows almost always require blue (in some degree) to give the effect of shadow. This blue can come in the form of any blue from a tube but I find the best blue for my purposes is Thalo Blue. Why? Because it is transparent, strong and dries evenly smooth.
When to use Ultramarine Blue Finest
Interestingly Ultramarine Blue Finest is sedimentary and often dries in tiny spots of blue. This is not suited to a subject with smooth surfaces such as petals or skin tone or fabric and sky. We wouldn’t want to see a lovely soft baby skin with a spotty surface. Ultramarine Blue Finest has a very dulling characteristic when used in mixes. I would not use Ultramarine Blue Finest for creating rich greens either.
There are many fantastic uses for Ultramarine Blue Finest – but these are not the places to use it.
Sap Green for Shadows on a local color of Red
Another way of creating a lovely shadow color when your local color is red, is to use Sap Green or Thalo Green instead of using Thalo Blue. Why? Of course green is created from a mix of blue and yellow. So naturally there is some blue in Sap Green and Thalo Green. But in the case of Sap Green, the blue is not a strong blue. Sap Green is warmer than blue on its own. Schmincke Sap Green is also highly transparent. Therefore using Sap Green to help you create a natural shadow color on a red local color will allow a more gentle shadow color shift. Using Blue will create a much more pronounced and harsh shadow color. There are times when we need our shadows to be harsh but if you take a look at this study -you will see we need a soft translucent and warm shadow in the inner areas of this bloom.
If we use blue for our shadow color we will cool the area down too much. This will result in a strong shadow, and the shadow would become a cool shadow. Neither of these will look or feel right in this instance.
Take a look at [Art 2-2]. Half of the image has a blue shadow color mixed with the local red color. The other half is a mix of Sap Green and the local red color. Can you see how the Sap Green and local red mix have created a gentle and natural transition between the areas affected by light and the areas in shadow. You can compare this to the side where I have added a blue and local red mix over our inner sanctum area. Do you feel the area with the blue mix has created a cooler shadow color? Can you see this shadow color is more pronounced, more harsh and a little unnatural in comparison to the area on the left inner sanctum where I have used Sap Green and some of our local color to create our shadows?
If you find your shadow mix is looking too green or too cool – simply add more of your transparent red to the mix. It is simple – just try it and before long it will become second nature to you.
Experiment – try different combinations. This is how we learn the most. Take notes of your findings. These are great references for when you paint vibrant reds again.
Color temperature is a huge subject and we will discuss that further in another lesson. But for now why not put the lessons we have discussed above, into practice. Keep a printed version of these lessons by your side for reference and you will be flying in not time at all!
Watercolor is a magical medium, so clean, fresh and fun to use. My methods allow me to create any subject, any texture or surface, depth as well as soft delicate passages. You will be amazed at the diversity of this medium. But what I enjoy most of all is being able to impart and emotion and a sensitivity within my paintings. This is what captivates our viewers. This is the point of difference. All this is possible with my watercolor methods.
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